Communications Management

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A communicator can use all three media to communicate.

The project manager has three main reasons for or interests in having good document control: effective communications, making sure that all necessary information is distributed and received by all those who need it; ability to reconstruct why certain decisions were made and the conditions under which they were made; historical value, so that lessons learned can be used in the future on other projects.

From the Guide to the PMBOK2000:

"A communications management plan is a document which provides:

• A collection and filing structure which details what methods will be used to gather and store various types of information. Procedures should also cover collecting and disseminating updates and corrections to previously distributed material.

• A distribution structure which details to whom information (status reports, data, schedule, technical documentation, etc.) will be used to distribute various types of information. This structure must be compatible with the responsibilities and reporting relationships described by the project organization chart.

• A description of the information to be distributed, including format, content, level of detail, and conventions/definitions to be used.

• Production schedules showing when each type of communication will be produced.

• Methods for accessing information between scheduled communications.

• A method for updating and refining the communications management plan as the project progresses and develops.''

The act of communicating involves an exchange of information between two parties. The definition of communications is: An exchange of information between two parties with understanding.

Brainstorming encourages team building if handled properly. Participants feel that they are part of the decision making process and have a sense of participation. In the evaluation part of brainstorming, the participants' thinking converges to a common agreement.

The Delphi technique allows participants to be located in different parts of the world. It lends itself to using e-mail. In the process, the participants submit their ideas anonymously. The facilitator receives the ideas, categorizes them, and returns the list to the participants.

Clairvoyance would be nice to have in many projects, but it is not practical for general use.

The situation described is a conflict. As applied to human behavior it is a disagreement between individuals, which can vary from a mild disagreement to a win/lose, emotion-packed confrontation. There are two basic, but opposing, views of conflict, the traditional and the modern. The traditional view sees conflict as being primarily negative. In this view, troublemakers cause conflict and it should be avoided. The manager who views conflict in this way avoids admitting that it exists, keeps it under cover, and tries to suppress it. The contemporary view sees conflict in a more positive light. According to this view, conflict is inevitable. It is a natural result of change and is frequently beneficial to the manager if properly managed. In particular, an atmosphere of tension, and hence conflict, is essential in any organization committed to developing or working with new ideas, for innovation is simply the process of bringing together differing ideas and perspectives into a new and different synthesis.

In resolving conflict there are several methods: forcing, withdrawal, smoothing, compromise, and problem solving. Of these, problem solving is the best, because the new facts allow the two disagreeing parties to resolve their differences with factual information and not opinion.

Communication involves at least two people who may have very different backgrounds, experience, and education. Many times these individuals come from different cultures, speak different languages, and certainly have different drives.

Unless there is reason not to do so, the communication method used to respond to a communication should be the same form as the original communication.

The project manager is responsible for the functions of the project team. As such the project manager is responsible for the communications that the team must make. The project manager has a wide range of responsibilities and is responsible for the guidance, motivation, output, planning, and control of the project team.

Too many innovative ideas are smothered by negative thinking before they are given any chance to prove their worth. It is much easier to think of dozens of reasons why something will not work than to figure out how to make it work. People who are prone to this type of thinking, particularly if they overdo the "devil's advocate'' role, will act as communication blockers and seriously impede the process of team building. These people announce their presence by their typical negative responses when something new is suggested.

The most effective way to communicate is to use several methods of communicating. Each method will make some of the message understood, and if all listed were used the level of understanding would be the highest.

The project expediter has no directing responsibility for the work that is done on the project. This is left to the functional managers in this environment. Project managers have many responsibilities, one of which is communications. In comparing the roles of the project manager and the project expediter, the expediter's primary role is communications.

Past project reviews are not one of the tools and techniques that could be used for performance reporting. Variance analysis, earned value reports, and performance reviews are listed in the Guide to the PMBOKas tools and techniques for performance reporting.

The expected project staffing is important to the communications technology since it will be necessary for the project staff to be able to use the communications tools effectively.

The administrative closure of the project consists of documenting the results of the project to formalize the acceptance of the products of the project. Administrative closure should not be delayed until the project is complete. Each major phase of the project should be closed to ensure that important information will not be lost. Outputs from administrative closure are the project archives, the project closure, and the lessons learned document.

The sender of a communication must make sure that the communication is understood and that it is clear and unambiguous and complete so that the receiver can receive it correctly.

You can improve your listening ability by doing these things:

• Show the speaker that you are interested.

• Demonstrate active, supportive attention.

• Don't constantly interrupt the speaker.

• Listen for the concepts and the ideas being presented by the speaker.

• Don't concentrate exclusively on the facts the speaker is using to support his or her arguments.

• Make sure that there is sufficient feedback on both sides to ensure that the points being made are clearly understood.

Project managers must be good communicators. While this does not mean that they must be orators or spellbinders, it does mean three things:

• They must recognize the importance of the interpersonal communication network with the project team, and encourage, not inhibit, informal communication between team members.

• They must recognize the importance of human relations to the success of communication flow and team building. Effective communication will not be achieved if there is not harmony and trust.

• They must recognize that communication is a two-way street. The project manager does not just give orders; the project team must understand, participate, and agree before teamwork is achieved. Feedback in both directions is necessary for team building and is vital for a continuing team effort.

There are seven people in the group, including the project manager. The networking formula for the number of lines of communications or connections between seven people is nX (n- 1)/2. In this case, [7X (7- 1)] / 2 = 21.

One of the best techniques for helping to keep a meeting moving in the right direction is to frequently summarize what has already happened in the meeting. The project manager should not make all the decisions; the team should participate in decision making. Although the project manager can introduce new ideas, he or she should not dominate the meeting with his or her own ideas.

Semantics is the study of words and their meanings. Words like charge can have many meanings. For example, charge my credit card, get an electric charge, the Charge of the Light Brigade, charge San Juan hill, he was charged with murder.

Most project managers spend approximately 90 percent of their working hours engaged in some form of communication. Examples include but are certainly not limited to conferences, meetings, writing memos, reading reports, and talking with team members' top management, customers, clients, subcontractors, suppliers, and so on.

From the Guide to the PMBOK: "Performance reporting involves collecting and disseminating information in order to provide stakeholders with information about how resources are being used to achieve project objectives. This process includes status reporting and progress reporting and forecasting.''

Communications planning—determining the information and communications needs of the stakeholders; who needs what information, when they will need it, and how it will be given to them.

Information distribution—making needed information available to project stakeholders in a timely manner.

Performance reporting—collecting and disseminating performance information. This includes status reporting, progress measurement, and forecasting.

Administrative closure—generating, gathering, and disseminating information to formalize phase or project completion.

The technologies or methods used to transfer information back and forth among project elements can vary significantly: from brief conversations to extended meetings, from simple written documents to immediately accessible online schedules and databases.

Information can be shared by team members through a variety of methods, including manual filing systems, electronic text databases, project management software, and systems that allow access to technical documentation such as engineering drawings.

Project information may be distributed using a variety of methods including project meetings, hard copy document distribution, shared access to networked electronic databases, fax, electronic mail, voice mail, and video conferencing.

This is an example of informal communications. Informal communications are unplanned written or verbal communications. Frequently these communications can bring valuable in formation to the project manager, but they can also be a source of erroneous information, and care should be taken when using them.

Project data is put into a variety of retrieval systems. These are not necessarily distribution systems but are storage and retrieval systems.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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